Nafiul Bahri

Wed May 27 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

43978NBa

“It wasn’t easy growing up as one of the few Bangladeshi kids in Staten Island. I didn’t know where I fit into the grand puzzle of life. I was born in Queens, but due to my early years in Bangladesh, English was a second language. If not for Arthur and Disney Channel, I’d still be struggling in my ESL classes. In a not so diverse Staten Island, I would hear comments such as ‘Where’s Bang-la-desh?’ and ‘Is your uncle a terrorist, or are you going to grow up to become one?’. I finally embraced my identity in high school by befriending more Desi students, and creating a multicultural club. It was there that I realized it is ok to be different, to not always fit in with the crowd. I further embraced my own Bangladeshi culture when my late uncle, a freedom fighter, and parents told me stories about the adversity we faced in order to become independent. Soon, I was engulfed in documentaries about the Liberation War of 71 and the Mukti Bahini. I pictured my dad’s struggles as a little boy being bullied by the Pakistani Army, and my uncle fighting the soldiers at 19 years old. Before I knew it, all my history papers were about Bangladesh. When Indian kids would say Gandhi, or Pakistani kids would say Jinnah, I proudly said Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

College was the start of a new chapter for me. I’ve never seen so many Desis my age in one building. Fast forward to Spring of 2018, I met Ashabul and Tahmid. Their first impression was that I must be Pakistani or Punjabi, but as soon as I exchanged Bangla with them, it was the start of something great!

In a year, we made our dream come true by creating a not-for-profit organization, Bangladesh Development Project. We define our patriotism through our actions. We must dismantle all forms of abuse that include sexist behavior, discrimination against different groups of people within our community, and we must silence those that normalize or uplift division within our group. We want to make sure our people are recognized, their needs are met, and the future is better than that of the present or past. As a fellow human being and Bangladeshi, I will continue to lay the framework to make this happen.”